After a year plus of friend-dating, I’ve found that when all else fails I can talk about books. Yell all you want about how TV and Facebook are ruining our attention spans and turning the human race into a bunch of morons, but I can attest that most of the women I have met this year—and I have met a lot—are readers.
Last night I went to a really lovely dinner with a new friend and, as usual, talk turned to book clubs and what we are each currently reading. My PBFF was looking for some non-fiction recommendations, so I pulled out my trusty Goodreads app, scrolled through my virtual bookshelves and passed along some titles that might be a good fit. (In case you too are looking for non-fiction recs, my must-read, go-to-the-bookstore-right-now-do-not-pass-go suggestion was Dave Eggers’s Zeitoun—my favorite book I’ve read in a long while. Others were In Cold Blood, Devil in the White City, and, of course, anything by AJ Jacobs, but especially The Year of Living Biblically.)
The wonderful thing about books—you know, besides the whole literacy, open-your-mind-to-whole-new-worlds, expand-your-creativity-and-flex-your-brain-muscles bit—is that they make wonderful conversation filler. I’ve had good luck this year, but not every date was easy chatter and instant BFF chemistry. And when all else failed, book talk saved the day. A simple “What are you reading now?” and you’re off to the races.
For me, television is another great conversation option, but I haven’t found it to be as foolproof as books. It’s less easy to recommend TV shows, because adding a new series to a viewing schedule is a pretty big investment. Also, for someone who watches a lot of TV, I often watch different shows than my potential friends. The absence of The Bachelor and True Blood and Dexter and Mad Men and any type of Real Housewife from my repertoire often turns TV talk into a dead end. With books, if you haven’t read each other’s favorites you can make to-read lists, and if you have, well, suddenly dinner is a mini-book club.
Obviously, talking books isn’t for everyone. When my husband meets a guy for the first time, if they have nothing else to talk about the conversation often falls to sports. For some of my friends around the country—those who aren’t particularly big into reading—sometimes silence filler comes in the way of foodie talk (new restaurants, food blogs, famous chefs), tabloid chatter, or anything Chelsea Handler. (These are all topics I’m more than happy to join in on myself. And speaking of foodie matters, and TV, last night was the third week in a row that I thought Top Chef was the finale and it wasn’t. Why so much Bahamas, people??)
What am I missing? When you find yourself in one of those painful, awkward-silence-filled conversations, what is your go-to conversation topic? And please don’t say the weather. That’s just a killer…